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(Masnavi Book 4: 61) The Argument between the Atheist and the Mystic

Reply to the materialist who disbelieves in the Deity and says that the world is eternal.

Yesterday some one was saying, “The world is originated in time: this heaven is passing away, and God is its inheritor.”
A philosopher said, How do you know (its) temporal origin? How should the rain know the
temporality of the cloud?

2835. You are not even a mote of the (celestial) revolution: how should you know the temporality of the sun?
The little worm that is buried in filth—how should it know the end and beginning of the earth? You have heard this by rote from your father: through foolishness you have become involved in this (belief).
What is the demonstrative argument for its temporality? Tell (me) or else keep silence and do not seek (indulge in) excessive talk.”
He said, “One day I saw two parties searching in this deep sea,

2840. (Engaged) in disputation and controversy and desperate battle: a crowd gathered round those two persons.
I went towards the crowded multitude and took notice of their (the disputants') affair.
One was saying, ‘The sky will pass away: without any doubt, this edifice has a builder.’
The other said, ‘It is eternal and timeless: it has no builder, or else it is (itself) the builder.He (his adversary) said, You have denied the Creator, the Producer of day and night and the
Giver of sustenance.’

2845. He (the philosopher) said, Without clear evidence, I will not listen to that which an ignoramus has accepted by rote.
Come, bring the proof and evidence, for never in the world will I hearken to this without proof.
The proof, he replied, ‘is within my soul: my evidence is hidden within my soul.
You, from weakness of eye, are not seeing the new moon: (if) I am seeing it, do not you be angry with me.’
There was much debate, and the people became perplexed as to the beginning and end of this
well-ordered celestial sphere.

2850. He (the pious man) said, Friend, within me is a (decisive) proof: I have a (manifest)
sign indicating the temporal origin of the sky.
I possess the certainty: for him that has certain knowledge the token thereof is that he will go into the fire.
Like the inmost feelings of love in lovers, that proof, (you must) know, does not come (to
utterance) on the tongue.
The inmost meaning of my words is not apparent, except (in) the pallor and haggardness of my face.
Tears and blood roll on my cheeks and become the proof of His (the Beloved's) comeliness and beauty.’

2855. He (the philosopher) replied, I do not deem these things to be such a proof as would be a manifest sign to the vulgar.’
He (the other) said, ‘When a base and a genuine coin boast, saying (to each other), “You art base; I am good and valuable,”
Fire is the final test: (the test is) that these two rivals should be dropped into the fire.

(Then) the vulgar and the elect will become acquainted with their (real) state and will advance from opinion and doubt to certain knowledge.
Water and fire, O (dear) soul, are the test for the pure and the base coin that is hidden.

2860. Let me and you, both of us, go into the fire and become a lasting proof for the perplexed.
Let me and you, both of us, fall into the sea, for you and I are a sign unto this multitude.’ Even so they did and entered the fire: both cast themselves upon the heat of the fire.
The God-proclaiming man who engaged in controversy was saved, while that bastard (impostor)
was burnt in the fire.
Hear from the muezzin this announcement, to the confusion of the foolish transgressors,

2865. That this name (Mohammed) has not been burnt (destroyed) by Death, since its bearer was a prince and most noble.
In the course of time hundreds of thousands of the veils of the unbelievers have been rent by this laying down of stakes.
When they (the devout men and the philosopher) made the wager, the truth prevailed as regards immortality and evidentiary miracles and the answer (given to unbelievers).
I perceived that he who spoke (in support) of the priority (of non-existence) and of the temporal
origin of the celestial sphere was victorious and in the right.
The unbeliever's argument is always shamefaced: where is a single sign that indicates the truth of that unbelief?

2870. Where in this world is (to be found) a single minaret in praise (honour) of the unbelievers, so that it should be a sign (of their veracity)?
Where is (to be found) a single pulpit where a preacher commemorates the life of an unbeliever?
The face of gold and silver coins, from (bearing) their (the prophets') names, is giving a token of this truth till the Resurrection.
The dies of the kings are ever being changed: behold the die of Ahmad (Mohammed) till the end of the world.
Show (me) the name of a single unbeliever on the design (stamped) on the face of any piece of silver or gold!

2875. Even (supposing that you) do not admit (arguments), behold this Miracle, (manifest)
like the sun, hundred-tongued, whereof the name is Ummu ’l-Kitáb.
None dares either steal (take away) a single letter thereof or add to the plain Word.
Become a friend to the conqueror, that you mayst conquer: beware, do not become a friend to the vanquished, O misguided man!
The unbeliever's argument is just this, that he says,I see no place of abode except this external
He never reflects that, wherever there is anything external, that (object) gives information of hidden wise purposes.

2880. The usefulness of every external object is, indeed, internal: it is latent, like the beneficial quality in medicines.

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